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Review of Year's Best Weird Fiction (edited by Laird Barron)

Anthologies like the Year’s Best Weird Fiction are a great place to catch up on favorite authors and discover new favorites. This anthology took a rather broader look at the meaning of weird fiction than I initially figured it would. Not much of the work was explicitly or even subtly Lovecraftian, which probably increased my enjoyment of it honestly. Tim Jeffrey’s offering, for example, was a twilight zone-style puzzle box rather than anything resembling his Punktown stories.

The stand-outs:

"Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks" by Paul Tremblay. I really liked this story, from the compelling point of view character to the dread filtered through a broken soul. The way Tremblay walks up to the edge of an impending apocalypse without ever letting us look straight at it, is masterful.

"Bor Urus" by John Langan: Stylistically Langan’s offering was in keeping with the beleaguered protagonists of other works I’ve read from him, but perhaps the work was slightly less bent towards horror and more concerned with an uneasy intersection between rage and forgiveness. Ironic considering this story was one of the few in the collection with an explicit and active monster.

“Furnace" by Livia Llewellyn was a compelling work, from an author I expect to hear more from in the future. She released an anthology this year and if this work is any sign, I can’t wait to read more of her complex, intricately wrought style. Her hallucinatory imagery creates an interplay between alternate realties. Without ever becoming explicitly horror, Llewellyn creates a world invested in malignant supernatural menace.

The one more or less Lovecraftian work, “A Quest of Dream” by P.H. Pugmire was actually very good, all things considered. Leaning towards Thomas Ligotti’s dense prose poems in style, the story follows a jovial and already damned dreamer on his quest to find the Dreamlands. There is a thread of current Mythos literature I’ve noticed that plays around with this idea - what if the unimaginable horrors of Lovecraft’s imagination were altogether more human scale than he made them out to be.

Kathe Koja will be editing this year’s Weird collection and I’m curious what side of the ledger another genre writer would tip towards. If the next volume charts as deftly the grey-zone between horror and fantasy, I’m in.
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